Where to Drink & Dine in Nashville
Willie Nelson was just an obscure young songwriter from Texas when he found Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge in Nashville. Legend has it that the bar is where he first ran into Patsy Cline’s husband and played him a 45 of “Crazy,” which she then famously recorded. Tootsie’s remains a draw just outside Nashville’s Music Row, the renowned historic district where tunes blare out of nearly every door.
While Nashville never had a shortage of watering holes, there’s a renewed sense of sophistication in its restaurant scene. Chefs are relocating from around the world, complementing the city’s musical sensibilities and creativity with a similar appetite for fine cuisine. This is the place to come for inspired nightlife and a showcase of Southern cooking.
The Wildhorse Saloon is a gigantic, three-story stomping ground for dancing, catching a concert and devouring barbecue. Nic Erickson, its executive chef, recently placed first in the Music City Hot Wing Festival. The bar’s calling card is the Wildhorse Whisper Whacker, a grown-up milkshake made with Jack Daniel’s, Bacardi 151 and a secret ingredient or two.
Billed as Nashville’s oldest dive bar, where “every hour is happy hour,” Dino’s has new owners and has been spruced up a bit, but not too much, retaining its reputation for burgers, breakfast, music and beer. Taste from a rotating roster of pies.
Within the confines of an old movie theater, the Lounge at Sinema is an atmospheric hotspot for happy hour and brunchtime Bloody Marys. Locals love The Patterson House, a quiet, speakeasy-like institution where cocktails take an elegant turn.
A former Patterson barman is now at the helm of Pinewood Social, which combines bowling, bocce, beer and more. Fig-infused rye whiskey and reserve Bourbon figure prominently on the beverage list, as do inspired wine choices from around the world.
A trip to Music City should also include a visit to Corsair Distillery, an independent craft distiller that makes small-batch whiskey and more. It offers two places to tour—the Brewstillery, in Marathon Village, makes both beer and whiskey; the Wedgewood Houston distillery allows you to tour, taste and try some Corsair cocktails.
Southern ingredients are the focus at Husk, where James Beard Award-winning Chef Sean Brock changes the menu daily to entice diners to explore Southern food. In-house pickling, seed-saving and heirloom husbandry is at the heart of Brock’s cooking. A James Beard nominee, Tandy Wilson, presides at City House, where traditional fare like catfish and grits is complimented by a particularly good wine list.
Industrial chic is the vibe at Rolf and Daughters, where haute cuisine meets country cooking and pastas, like cavatelli with pancetta, mustard greens and pecorino, star. The Catbird Seat, recognized in the Wine Enthusiast 100 Best Wine Restaurants list, is an intimate, chef table-type of experience where guests observe the creation of a new tasting menu every day.
Avo works with local farms to create vegan and vegetarian dishes to die for, and takes a similar approach to its cocktail list. A great example is the AVOcado Margarita, made with fresh avocado, tequila, cilantro, lime, agave and housemade orange “dust.” Former food truck Biscuit Love offers breakfast and lunch, including John’s Ham Bar, a selection of four regional hams slathered in house mustard on beaten biscuits (not to mention a ham-to-go counter). It also features wines from Reedy Creek Vineyards and Cellars in Kingsport, Tennessee.